A group of Warren residents voiced their concerns to an understanding city commission Wednesday morning, but they were barking up the wrong tree.
Ten members of the West Side Alliance attended the 7:30 a.m. meeting of the city planning commission and presented a petition asking that they be kept in the loop when discussions about a proposed wastewater treatment facility take place.
“As citizens of the City of Warren, we’re very concerned about the location of a wastewater treatment plant,” spokesperson Susan George said. “Locating a treatment facility... on Pennsylvania Avenue at Pine Street is just not appropriate.”
The concerns included the presence of hazardous chemicals in the water that would be brought to the plant, noise issues, and property values.
“I live directly across from this,” Betty Lou Conklin said. “How many of you want this in your front yard?”
The G.G. Greene Industries building, measuring 160,000 square feet, was demolished earlier this year. The company moved its operation to Starbrick more than a year ago.
City Manager Jim Nelles said the property has been the site of industrial facilities since before World War II.
“Not like this,” Conklin said. “This is very disturbing because I have children and grandchildren in back of me.”
She said the foundation of her house has been shaken over the past few months as the demolition and subsequent rock crushing have taken place.
“We want to be informed of discussions for any use or planning for the former G.G. Greene property,” George said. “We just want our beautiful city to be safe and to attract people to come here.”
Because the members of the planning commission would have little or no role in the process, they did not take any action.
“It’s an industrial zone,” chairman Don Nelson said. “The planning commission would take no action because it’s already in an industrial zone. Our purpose here is to change or modify... to set the rules.”
Nelles responded to the residents’ concerns.
“At this point it’s in the planning stage,” Nelles said. “I don’t want to see anybody get too excited yet. I can assure you that we’re not going to put anything in there that’s harmful to anyone in the city.”
When George countered that there are hazardous chemicals in water that has been used for hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells, Nelles clarified his statement.
He said the processes at the facility would not result in any harmful chemicals that could be discharged to earth, air or water.
“A lot of water will come in by rail,” Nelles said. “Is there going to be some additional truck traffic? Yes.”
He said the operation will be mostly “under roof” and “it’s going to be a very attractive site.”
Nelson is an investor in and member of Kinzua Development Associates (KDA). A KDA offshoot, the Northwest Energy Resource Group, is working on the development of the wastewater facility.
He said the environmental concerns surrounding the large-scale development of Marcellus Shale gas makes treatment facilities necessary. Millions of gallons of water, with a variety of chemical additives, are pumped into deep gas wells during fracking procedures. Much of that water is brought back out and must be treated.
“I view this as an opportunity to be environmentally sound,” Nelson said.
He offered to get the residents in contact with people involved in the development to help them come to a decision on “whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.”
Nelles said the facility would eventually employ “several dozen” people in “good paying jobs” and “pump a lot of tax money into the city.”
“It’s a revolutionary process. Warren would be the first to have it in the state,” he said. “We want this to be to the advantage of the City of Warren.”
Before hearing the concerns of the residents, commission members moved through their usual agenda talking about signs and blighted properties.
Members voted unanimously in favor of concurrence of blight on two properties in the city. The 101 and 103 Main Ave., and 104 Water St. properties were moved along to the redevelopment authority.
In both cases, members stressed that there is still time for the owners to avoid having their structures demolished or taken over by the city.
According to Building Code Official Alan Gustafson, the owner of the Water Street building, Steven Haight, has made progress, but not enough.
“At this point it’s still in a condition of blight,” Nelson said.
“If he continues to work he has nothing to worry about,” commission member Bill Tarpenning said.
The Main Avenue property has a new owner after Monday’s tax sale.
The members of the commission concurred on blight status for the structure.
“There are plenty of opportunities for the new owner,” commission member Pat Scutella said.
“This building had tremendous character,” Nelson said. “It still can be salvaged.”
After holding a three-hour meeting last week to hammer out some final details for the city’s new sign ordinance, the commission members didn’t have a lot of work to do on that front.
The proposed ordinance “reflects reality and allows us to move forward,” Nelson said.
The group scheduled a public hearing for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, in the city council chambers at the municipal building.
Nelson asked that people read the ordinance before making comments at the hearing. He said the meeting will be for “input, not dialogue.”
The draft of the document is not finished. When it is, Nelson said it will be available at the city’s Web site, www.cityofwarren.gov, and on paper at the city building.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Not in my front yard
Houses along Pennsylvania Avenue West in Warren near Walnut Street face the location of a proposed wastewater treatment plant. A group of west side residents expressed concerns about the proposal Wednesday morning to the city’s planning commission.